George Town Festival 2014: A Celebration of People, Places, and Communities

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The fifth edition of the annual George Town Festival (GTF) features a showcase of international talents and commissioned projects aimed at creating a hub for global creative arts. Promising an opportunity for Malaysians to learn about and experience the world’s arts, cultures, sounds, and theatre, the festival will be held over the entire month of August.

“We aim to make this an enriching experience for everyone with our offering of a diverse palette of world-class events that immediately transforms George Town into a borderless stage celebrating art, culture and heritage in exciting and creative ways,” says Festival Director Joe Sidek.

With programmes scheduled every day of the festival, the emphasis this year is on the living culture of the city. Raw venues such as corner coffee shops will be converted to become the galleries, theatres and performance spaces of the festival.

“Penang is well known to tourists across the world for its historical heritage and food – and soon as a cultural melting pot via this festival,” says Sidek. “The festival is a powerful way to showcase the rich diversity of our global community.”

One of the aims of GTF is to embrace what makes George Town distinctive – its people, fascinating sights, and the many communities that respect and foster creativity. “We live within such a unique network of vibrant spaces, and the real centrepiece of the festival is the city itself. We want to turn the city into a canvas for world-class artistes,” adds Sidek.

As in previous years, GTF continues to draw some of the world’s leading creatives to Penang with a line-up featuring toptier talent from the international arena of dance, music, drama, and design. The festival highlights will be scheduled during the five weekends in August to allow visitors to fit in a multi-layered festival experience.

One of the gems of GTF 2014’s programme listing, which boasts award-winning acts from Australia and the United Kingdom, is the Asian premiere of Play, an extraordinary dance duet by world-renowned Flemish- Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Anna Karenina, Sutra).

Also making its Southeast Asian debut is The Kitchen, a theatrical work that invokes all the senses. The multi-sensory feast is directed by Roysten Abel, whose awardwinning show, The Manganiyar Seduction, was the opening act of the Melbourne Festival 2011.

Festival-commissioned works make up a key component of the highlight listing, drawing inspiration from the physical and social fabric of George Town. Acclaimed Malaysian director Saw Teong Hin (Puteri Gunung Ledang) will present a Hokkien play inspired by the changing faces of Penang, performed in the iconic setting of the Khoo Kongsi Temple. From Singapore comes a site-specific drama entitled 2 Houses, about the loves, lives and losses of two elite Penang families. It will be performed in one of the island’s heritage colonial mansions by a cast of Malaysian and Singaporean actors.


In adding support for the Festival, Penang Chief Minister, YAB Tuan Lim Guan Eng, believes that “having a solid creative infrastructure with its roots in education and industry is key to ensuring a sustainable and vibrant urban environment. A creative design centre in the centre of George Town, as suggested by the GTF team, is a vital step towards this goal and I fully support their vision.”

The Chief Minister hopes Malaysians will attend the festival and witness the importance of diversity in arts and culture. “After all, we need to understand the past to be connected to the present, and confront the challenges of the future together.”

The George Town Festival is a month-long festival of the arts that has become a proud Penang institution. Starting as a series of arts and cultural events in celebration of George Town’s listing as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2008, GTF celebrated its inaugural festival in 2010. Under the leadership of Festival Director, Joe Sidek, GTF aims to celebrate the living heritage of the city by inviting the best of international and local talent to use George Town as a showcase for the festival month. The full calendar will be announcement on 15 May. Please visit www.georgetownfestival.com for more details.

Source: The Expat Magazine June 2014

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